Editor’s Note: Jihyun Park is the North Korean Outreach and Project Officer for the European Alliance for Human Rights in North Korea. Park escaped from North Korea twice and was imprisoned in a North Korean gulag. Park has testified before a UN Commission on human rights on North Korea and now resides in the United Kingdom. The opinions expressed here are the author’s own.
Trafficked woman and prison survivor says women's peace march is misinformed
Jihyun Park was sold after crossing from North Korea for $800
Park: Women's rights awareness campaigns by North Korean women don't get the kind of attention that Steinem's march is getting
In North Korea, women have no rights. There is no right to freedom, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness.
Because of state-induced starvation and poverty, families have been ripped apart and relationships between mothers and children have been severed.
A pervasive patriarchal culture governs North Korean society. Women not only fear abuse from the state, they fear abuse from patriarchal impunity.
Any discussions, however infrequent, on human rights inside North Korea are made for and by men. This situation is made worse because many women are ignorant of their universal human rights and cannot imagine recourse to justice or equality. For example, if a North Korean woman sought to escape North Korea, her only path is through the world of human trafficking and sexual exploitation in China. For many of us, human rights violations became a fact of day-to-day life.
My own experience of being trafficked from North Korea into China, being sold into marriage with a Chinese man for 5,000 yuan (approx. US $800), and being subjected to constant domestic servitude is something that will haunt me for the rest of my life. I gave birth to a son in China, but soon after I was repatriated to North Korea and my son was left in China. If my son had been born in North Korea to a Chinese father, he would have been killed for his mother’s betrayal of her Fatherland.
Pregnant women in North Korea prison camps work extremely hard until the death of their unborn children through miscarriage, or if she carries it to term, the newly born child is killed in front of mother. They cannot even cry out loud in front of the death of their un-born children – that would be a further act of treason – all they can do is quietly wipe away their tears with their sleeves.
I do not know Christine Ahn, the woman who organized the “peace march” across the DMZ or her fellow travelers. Nor do I know much about Ahn’s activities, if she claims to be a true feminist, or how much she knows about the situation of women in North Korea.
READ: Women activists’ plans to cross Korea’s DMZ draws ire
But speaking as a North Korean woman myself, I do not see how Ahn’s crossing of the DMZ will improve the lives of the women of North Korea or bring peace to a country that is governed by a leadership who despise women.
Along with 200 of my former countrymen and countrywomen, I spoke as a witness to the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea. Ahn would do well to read my testimony and those of the women whom she claims to be helping. In our testimonies, we spoke of unspeakable sexual violence, forced abortions and endemic rape. These facts about North Korea ― for that is what they are ― are available for the world to read. I truly hope that Ahn listens to the words of North Korean women before she enters our homeland.
I do not know Christine Ahn. They all tell us that they are feminists and seek peace on the Korean peninsula. Yet not one of these women, who have told us that they are good-intentioned, has any understanding of the plight of women in North Korea.
They say they are doing this for peace and that they will not be used.
As they cross the DMZ into a propaganda festival for the North Korean government, I hope that my words cross their minds. I and many North Korean women campaign every single day for the rights of North Korean women ― and we do so without Ahn’s fanfare.
It is us, the North Korean women, who have suffered and we urge the world to listen to our voices.